Listen up beer fans: America’s first Trappist brewery could open in nearby Spencer, MA. What was once just a murmur brewing among beer enthusiasts now looks closer to becoming a reality. Beer Street Journal reported yesterday that The Saint Joseph Abbey in Spencer is “adding a brewery, under the advisement of Chimay.”
Jeff Wharton of Drink Craft Beer tells us that the 50,000 square foot brewery which “has been rumored to be coming for years now … sounds like it’s actually to the point where there is some certainty.” Great news for all of the Massachusetts brew fans out there.
For those who don’t already know, the International Trappist Association currently only recognizes eight Trappist Abbeys in the world: Chimay, Rochefort, Orval, Achel, Westmalle, Westvleteren, Koningshoeven, and Stift Engelzell.
Many don’t realize that these breweries are actually monasteries as well. Trappist beer must technically be brewed by monks (or under their supervision) in a Trappist monastery.
And to familiarize you with the Trappists, the group dates back to the Middle Ages when the Cistercian order split to form its own division known as “Cistercians of the Strict Observance.” The monks then started brewing their own strong beer for their local communities.
According to Wharton, “the Trappist breweries are known for great quality and a traditional, yet diverse, style of Belgian ales. It sounds like Spencer will be focused at first on the Belgian table beer, which is a style that isn’t done much.”
We also spoke with Bill Fisher, co-founder of Newburyport Brewing Co., who similarly expressed his excitement, stating, “having spent six months living in Brussels … it was a treat to drink some of the freshest Chimay I could get my hands on. Even the smallest corner bars in Belgium would be pouring the local Trappist beers – it was just part of the community beer culture.”
He also pointed out that having a “Trappist brewery based in Massachusetts certainly would provide a huge boost to the local community and would give New England craft beer drinkers more quality, fresh, tasty brews to call their own.”
Likewise, Wharton explained that “between the allure of being ‘Trappist’ and producing an accessible style, they’re definitely set up in a good way to get a lot of people drinking their beer. The crowd will love … the romanticism of ‘Trappist’ and the tradition that comes with it will help sell the beer.”
We’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for the future Trappist brewery as far as production and distribution are concerned. But one thing’s for sure, this speculation looks to be fermenting into a full blown reality.
[January 21 update: Since this article, Spencer Trappist Ale – the first Trappist beer in America – launched in Massachusetts. The Trappist Ale is now available in stores – per image (left) posted by Reddit user KazamaSmokers]